Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at

Sunday, May 31, 2015



McHenry Boatwright could sing.  Man, could he sing!  If you were to typecast this young man from Tennille, Georgia, with his tall frame and handsome rock and roll star looks, you would swear he would have been a "doo wopper" of the fabulous fifties.  You would be wrong.   This young man from Washington County catapulted himself to the top of the music world, not as a member of a pop vocal group, but as one of the leading baritone-bass opera singers in America.

McHenry Boatwright - he was once called "Mac Henry Boatright" - was born on Leap Day, February 29, 1920.  The youngest son of Levi and Lillie Boatright, Mac first lived in a home at 112 South Church Street in Tennille.  Levi, a switchman in the rail yards in Tennille, was out of work when the Great Depression struck in 1929. Mac's mother Lillie helped to support the family by  working as a cook in a private home.  Mac's siblings Valeria, Annie,  Levi J., Ruth, and Grover later lived at 418 N. Smith Street in the railroad town.

By the age of seven, McHenry's interest in music had manifested itself in the sanctuary of St. James A.M.E. Church.  A talented piano player, the young man's future seemed to be not so bright in the waning South, which had been stripped of her cotton and railroad fortunes.  His older sister, recognizing that her brother's chance for musical success could only come in the culture rich northeastern states, summoned McHenry to come to Boston and join her.  So, McHenry left T.J. Elder school and the only world he ever knew and moved to Boston at the age of twelve. 

In making a choice between high school and playing jazz music, Boatright chose the latter, but completed his school studies at night.  To pay for his tuition at the New England Conservatory of Music, McHenry worked as a cab driver, elevator operator and other jobs.  Near the end of his studies at the conservatory, McHenry decided to major in voice.  To pay for his voice lessons, McHenry tutored other students in the art of singing.

McHenry Boatright's first real success came in a performance of Berlioz's oratorio, "The Damnation of Faust," accompanied by the Boston Symphony.  His big break came in 1953 at the Chicagoland Music Festival.  An overnight star at the age of thirty three, McHenry was chosen the best of nearly two thousand hopeful participants.   That outstanding performance led to an appearance on "Chicago Theatre of the Air," and eventually a national solo on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the

It was as the New England Opera Theater where McHenry was discovered by the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, only eighteen months his senior, and
invited to sing with Bernstein's New York Philharmonic Orchestra.  In 1956,  Boatwright sung the lead role in Clarence Cameron White's "Ouanga at the Metropolitan Opera House in a performance sponsored by the National Negro Opera Foundation.  

In the early 1960s, McHenry Boatright sang the role of "Crown," a tough stevedore  in the first stereo recording of George and Ira Gerswhin's "Porgy and Bess."  

In 1974, Boatwright returned home to his old school in Tennille.  He stopped in on his way to a performance in Atlanta.  People from all over the county filled the auditorium to hear one of the county's most famous sons.    

Late in his life, McKinley married Ruth James, who was the only sibling of the legendary musician Duke Ellington.  Duke and Ruth were inseparable.  They traveled together and some say Ruth reduced the likelihood of Duke's many girlfriends bickering with each other.   Ruth's life was remarkable in her own right.  After graduating from Columbia University in 1939, she studied and taught in Europe.  While she was in France, she met and developed a close relationship with the immortal singer Josephine Baker.   In 1941, Ellington asked Ruth to manage his business.  She accepted and took care of his business affairs for more than half a century.  McHenry sung the eulogy song at Ellington's funeral in 1974.  In 1982, Boatwright aided his wife in managing his brother in law's tribute Sacred Concerts in New York and London.  

Among Boatwright's most celebrated performances were those with the Schola Cantorum of New York, the Boston Symphony, the Boston Pops, the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra along with concerts in Carnegie Hall. Among his most cherished awards were two from the Marion Anderson Foundation and the National Federation of Music Clubs. 

McHenry Boatright died of cancer on November 5, 1994.  He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City.  His wife Ruth died on March 6, 2004.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Laurens County African American Farmers.

For more than two centuries they have toiled in the fields, first as slaves, then as sharecroppers and, eventually, as owners of farms.   Throughout our past the contributions of these men, and women too, have left an invaluable impact on our local economy and our way of life.  This is the story of the African American farmers of Laurens County.

When Laurens County was created in 1807, the first black farmers were slaves.  Three years later the first census of the county enumerated 485 slaves.  Most of these people lived in the northern regions of the county on the large plantations.   By 1860 that number had increased to nearly 3,300 persons, some of whom were employed in non-agricultural positions or were too old or too young to work in the fields.

The end of the Civil War brought about the liberation of the black farmers. While many farmers were relegated to living and sharecropping on the lands of their former masters, some were given land or were quickly successful enough to buy their own piece of land.  In 1870, there were fifty black farmers who were more than just farm laborers.  Among these, David Lock, William Coats, Jacob Coney, Moses Yopp, S. Ellington, Sandy Stanley, Robert Stanley, J. Yonks and Jordan Burch owned their own land.  The granddaddy of these farmers was 80-year old William Coats.  Harriett Harvard was the only female farmer in that census year.

During the latter decades of the 19th Century, the leading black farmers included Ringold Perry, Daniel Cummings, Hamlet McCall, D.  McLendon, Jacob Fullwood and many members of the Yopp and Troup families.  Adam McLeod, of Lowery's District, was so successful that he was known to have been the first black man to buy a car in Laurens County.  

In 1910 near the zenith of cotton production in Laurens County, there were 2266 black farmers in Laurens County, ten more than their white counterparts.  In that year, 274 farms were owned and cultivated by their black owners.  Nearly three fourths of all of Laurens County's five thousand farms were cultivated by tenant farmers, 2027  of them were black.  Though the net wealth of a black farmer was less than $40.00 per person, farm ownership increased by 76% in the first decade of the
Twentieth Century.   

The rapid growth in the impact of the black farmer came to a screeching halt in the next decade when the boll weevil came to Laurens County and all but eliminated cotton as the most important part of the local farm economy.  By the mid 1920s, many of the tenant farmers were leaving in masses for the North and better paying and more reliable industrial jobs.  One notable migrant was Walker Smith, Jr., father of boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson, who moved to Detroit to make $60.00 per week as opposed to $30.00 per month on his Laurens County farm. 

In effort to lessen the devastation of the coming of the boll weevil, Laurens County hired the first black farm agent, a man known only as Mr. Robinson and later Mr. Carlton of Tuskegee.  Essex Lampkin took over the duties in 1930.  Five years later, Emory Thomas came to the county and organized community farm clubs and 4-H clubs throughout the county.  The work of these pioneers continues today under the leadership of Gary Johnson and his staff and volunteers.

These farm programs worked and worked well.  Emmett Hall won national recognition for his planning and budgeting procedures.    With the aid of Farmers Home Administration and Georgia Extension Service, Hall, a tenant farmer for twenty six years, bought his own farm.  Through careful planning and hard work, Hall not only managed to pay off the farm's debt in five years, he bought two more farms.  Hall and his sons built nearly six miles of terraces to prevent erosion on their hilly farm north of Dublin.  Hall needed the extra money, for had eight children to feed.

Henry Josey followed Emmett Hall's example.    In a good year as a sharecropper, Mr. Josey would make about $5.00 a week.  With the aid of extension agents P.L. Hay and Luther Coleman and state leader P.H. Stone, Josey turned a hilly farm, with most of its top soil eroded down to the clay, into a highly profitable six thousand dollar a year enterprise.  Josey built terraces and planted lupine, kudzu and legumes to halt erosion.  He added to live stock to supplement his field crops.  Josey's yield of corn increased five fold.  After saving up enough money to put down on a farm, Josey said, "We had $29.00, 35 bushels of corn, and a broken down mule to make a crop with."    But Josey and his wife persevered.  The former sharecroppers paid off their loan in a few years, and increased their acreage from 40 to 184 acres by the end of World War II.   After thirty years of struggling to make a living on the farm, life was good for the Henry Josey family.

During the war years farm production was critical to the war effort.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt organized the Farm Security Administration to ensure increased production.  The Federal agency gave out awards to families who had gone above the goals set by the department for food production for home use and marketing with a special emphasis put on hogs, poultry and peanuts.  In 1942, six black farmers - Dempsey Wright, Johnny Beard, Jordan Wright, Ed Mathis, Emmett Hall and Bob Blackshear - were awarded certificates of merit for food for freedom production in a special ceremony held in the Laurens County Courthouse.

The location of the Georgia 4H Club for black youth in Dublin only helped the work of 4H programs in the community.  Willie Brantley lost his father and had to drop out of school in the 8th grade.  With no hint of hope in sight, Willie turned to Emory Thomas and his friends in 4H.  With their encouragement, Brantley worked hard and gradually began to increase his production of corn and livestock.  He served as chairman of the Laurens County 4-H Council for three years and garnered several awards.  In 1940, all of Willie Brantley's hard work and prayers were answered when he was awarded a scholarship as the state's most outstanding 4H club member. 

With the advent of the Civil Rights movement, black farmers, and especially their children, were afforded opportunities outside the farm.  Tenant farming was becoming a part of the past.  Farmers, like Robert Coleman of Dudley, took jobs in industry and worked on their farms on a part time basis. Coleman told a reporter for the New York Times in 1992, " It's twice as hard for the black farmer. We lose our land after a bad year or through bad management practices.  Some of us just can't afford new techniques to produce higher yields.  As for me, I'd have lost my farm if it wasn't for my job at the mine."  Fifteen years after the New York Times predicted that the extinction of black farmers was near, there are now less than sixty black farmers left in Laurens County.

Though the time of the black farmer in Laurens County may be coming to an end, their legacy of their steadfastness, dedication and hard work will endure for centuries to come.      

Saturday, May 23, 2015



      Another day dawned this morning and Jeralean Kurtz Talley turned 116 years old.  Mrs. Talley, a native of Montrose, Georgia, holds on to her official title as  the oldest living person in the world..

Mrs. Talley was born on May 23, 1899 to Samuel James Kurtz and Amelia Kurtz.  William McKinley was President of the United States.  On May 23, 2014, some nineteen presidents, fourteen hundred plus full moons and 42,000 sunsets later, Ms. Jeralean  reaches yet another milestone in the time line of her longest life. 

Jeralean, who was among a dozen children of Samuel and Amelia Jones Kurtz, grew up in the outskirts of Montrose, Georgia in western Laurens County, Georgia.  Her grandfather, Andrew J. Kurtz, husband of Rachel Kurtz, was most likely a slave owned by Dr. William J. Kurtz,  who owned nearly two dozen slaves during the Civil War.

Jeralean and her family moved to Inkster, Wayne County, Michigan during a vast migration of African-American farm workers who left Laurens County in the 1920s for Detroit, Michigan. That group includes the family of world champion boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson and Ford Motor Company inventor and innovator, Claude Harvard.  

Jeralean married Alfred Talley, who died in the 1980s.  Although she was from large family,  Jeralean had only one child, a daughter, Thelma Holloway, who is now seventy-five years old. She has three grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren. 

As for Talley, she credits her God for her longevity.  When asked by Congressman John Conyers as to what her secret to a long life was, she pointed upward and said, "The good Lord up above. If it wasn't for Him, none of us would be here."

Talley was almost 107 before she moved out of her home and into her daughter's home.  She gave up bowling when she was a mere 104.   And, she scored a very respectable 200 in her last game.
With 116 years behind her Jeralean has many stories to tell.  One of her favorites is the tale of her first and only attempt to drive a car. 

"I tried that one time," in her 30s, she said. 

"I  didn't hit the right one to make it go forward and it went backwards," Talley told Elisha Anderson of The Detroit Free Press.

When her husband Alfred yelled at her, she opened the door and got out of the car and never drove again.

A verified supercentenarian is a person who is at least 110 years old and whose age is documented by at three or more reliable documents as determined by an international body - the most respected organization being the Gerontology Research Group.

The world's oldest verified person ever was a French woman Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of 122 years, 164 days.

Happy Birthday Ms. Jeralean! 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Co. E, 2nd Bn., 222nd Inf.
42nd Division

“He Gave His Yesterdays For Your Tomorrows”

Awarded The Silver Star 
for gallantry in action at Gambsheim, France,
January 6, 1945

“Back in the States, we were told to
pick our squad leaders. One quality to look 
for was intelligence, so I picked the best.”

   Walter E. Stomski, Co. E,
   2nd Battalion, 222nd Regiment,
   42nd (Rainbow) Division, U.S. Army


  May 8, 1945,  V-E Day:  The Dublin Courier Herald’s banner headline read “ War Officially Ends.”  Public celebrations were somewhat subdued.  There were a few flags displayed publicly in stores and homes around the city.  In the Zetterower home, the mood was much more somber.  Dr. and Mrs. Frank Zetterower, Sr. had heard nothing from their son Frank, who had been reported missing in action for four seemingly endless months. Day after agonizing day, night after restless night, they held out hope.  Then on the day the war officially ended in Europe, the news they had feared, but prayed and hoped would never come, did come: “The War Department regrets to inform you that  your son was kil....”  You can’t imagine the pain, the never ending pain, unless you have been in their place. The families of James E. Fountain and Christopher Lowery got the same dreaded news that day, a day which was supposed to be a happy one.

Frank Zetterower, Jr. graduated from Dublin High School in 1936.  Little did Frank and his buddies, Red Tindol and Bob Werden , know what the world had in store for them in the upcoming decade.    After graduation, Frank worked a while for Swift and Company before he was granted a Dunlop Tire franchise in Dublin. 

Frank entered the United States Army and began his training at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma.  He quickly rose in rank to a Staff Sergeant in Co. E of the 222nd Regiment of the 42nd Army Division, known forever as the “Rainbow Division.”  The division got it’s name during World War I.  It was named by one of its members,

Gen. Douglas McArthur.  McArthur remarked that the division, which was originally composed of National Guard Units from 27 states: “The 42nd Infantry stretches like a rainbow from one end of America to the other.”  

One of Frank’s fellow staff sergeants was Sgt. George P. Beard, Jr..  Beard, Zetterower, and Russell Harris were the staff sergeants in 2nd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 222nd Regiment of the 42nd Division.  Beard fondly remembered a humorous story about Sgt. Zetterower.  “Because Frank’s last name was Zetterower, he was well known by all of Company E.  There was a daily mail call.  The mail clerk’s name was Cpl. Gwaltney.  He proceeded to call out the mail by the alphabet each day. Frank, because of his last name, was always the last to receive his mail.  After a few
days of mail call, Cpl. Gwaltney, suddenly changed his procedures and started with the letter ‘Z.’   A lot of good natured grumbling occurred as Zetterower sauntered through the crowd with a broad grin and his mail in his hand.  Cpl. Gwaltney did this on several occasions and from then on, everyone knew Staff Sergeant Zetterower in Company E,” Beard wrote.
S.Sgt. Beard remembered another incident which puzzled many members of the company.  First Sergeant Snow gave out weekend passes on every Friday. Sergeants Snow and Zetterower were always the first to get their passes to nearby Muskogee, Oklahoma.  After a few weekends, Beard finally asked why Snow and Zetterower always got their passes before anyone else.  Zetterower reluctantly revealed that he and Snow were studying to obtain their degrees as Masons in the Muskogee Masonic Lodge.    Because of Frank’s inspiration, Beard became a Mason and recently received his fifty-year pin from Culpepper, Virginia Masonic Lodge.  

After basic training, the members of the 42nd Division, composed of the 222nd, 232nd, and 242nd regiments, boarded troop trains on November 13, 1944 bound for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  The men wrote their families with the traditional sentiments directing them “not to worry, I’ll be back home, soon.” The men marched quietly to the long train of Pullman cars and troop sleepers as the band played “The Rainbow Song” and “Mountain Dew.” Their wives, girl friends, and well wishers
cried.  Despite an attempt to disguise their mission upon the arrival at Camp Kilmer, everyone knew that they were bounded for Europe.  Many of them had been told that the war was almost over and that the German army was ready to quit.  Upon their arrival in New Jersey, the men caught up on their sleep, contacted their love ones and wondered when they would get a pass to New York City.  Most of the men got to go to the “Big Apple,” before all passes were canceled and they were restricted to the base.   From there, the men of the Rainbow Division boarded the troop ship,
“The George Washington,” bound for France.  The rest of the division would come over several months later.
The infantry regiments of the Rainbow Division arrived in Marseilles, France on December 8th and 9th.  Shortly after their arrival, the men marched to a stony, windswept piece of ground known as Command Post 2.  The weather there was an omen of things to come.  The days were cold - the nights, even colder.  The men continued to train during the day.  All lights were put out at night  to protect against German air raids.  In one of his last letters to his brother John, whom Frank affectionately referred to as “Mug Head,” Frank said that he was about 350 miles from the front, somewhere in southern France.  “I don’t know how long I will be at this place, so I’m just waiting around with everyone else to see what happens,” Zetterower added.  The first news from his wife Zona since his arrival in Europe comforted Frank.  Frank wished John, who was a Lieutenant Junior Grade stationed at Dental Dispensary # 29, Camp Ward, U.S.N.T.C., Farragut, Idaho,  a “Merry
Christmas and Happy New Year!”  The Battle of the Bulge dominated the news from the front.  The Third Army was moving northward, while the Seventh Army was stretching its thin lines to take up the line vacated by the Third Army.  The Rainbow Division was assigned to the Third Army and left the Command Post in trucks, and 40 and 8 boxcars to an assembly area in Bensdorf, France.  While they were on the way, the division was reassigned to the Seventh Army to relieve elements of the 36th Division around Strasbourg.
The 42nd, not a full strength division, was assigned to Task Force Linden, which was under the command of Brigadier General Henning Linden and which assembled near the ancient city of Strasbourg, where they arrived on December 23rd.  On Christmas Eve, while the remainder of the Division was still preparing to come over, the 222nd regiment moved into front-line defensive positions along the Rhine River.  Task Force Linden was  placed under the control of the 79th Division.   The 232nd Regiment was on the left flank, the 222nd situated in the city of Strasbourg, and the 242nd sat on the right or south flank.  The total line stretched for 19 miles.   The 42nd spent Christmas on the Maginot Line housed in old French forts and school buildings.  There was hot turkey dinner that day.  There was even running water. Frank and his men could look and see the famous Gothic Cathedral which towered above the skyline of Strasbourg.    Bill Clayton remembered seeing the German soldiers moving about on the other side of the river.  They had orders not to fire,
unless they were fired upon first.    The Germans, also on the defense, fired occasional volleys of machine gun fire into American positions.

    Following the Battle of the Bulge, German forces under Himmler were determined to repulse the Allied advance into their homeland.  On December 26th, American generals were desperately seeking to fill gaps in the Allied lines. Contingency plans for the evacuation of Strasbourg were laid out.  American lines grew dangerously thin.    New Year’s Day found the Americans shifting positions again.  The 222nd regiment took over the sector previously occupied by the 242nd regiment south of Strasbourg.  A threat of an attack on the following night sent the 222nd a little further to the east.  Following a conference between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and French leader Charles De Gaulle, a decision was made to hold Strasbourg.  January 3rd was a bitterly cold day.  Frank had previously written his brother stating that because of the extreme cold in France, that he and his men were forced to burn their shoe polish to stay warm.   Refugees, fearing an oncoming battle, were fleeing  Strasbourg.  The 2nd Battalion of the 222nd, including E Company, moved back into Strasbourg.

E Company (222nd) was relieved on the 5th of January, 1945 by soldiers from the 1st French Regiment.  In order to speed up the relief, one company at a time was taken out from the lines.  By 1:00 p.m., E Company had been completely relieved and the men began loading their trucks for Wantzenau.  They rode in trucks known as DUCKs, which were amphibious vehicles. Company leaders had no knowledge of their mission once they arrived in Wantzenau, when they were directed to move to Weyersheim.

The Germans noticed the movements of the 42nd and began an attack on Gambsheim and other points along the Rhine River on the morning of the 5th.   At three o’clock on the afternoon of January 5, 1945, Lt. Colonel Edmund Ellis received orders for the attack on Gambsheim, France, a small village along the Rhine River, which separated France and Germany.   It would be the second time in a month that American Forces attempted to seize the French border town.    On December 7, 1944, three years to the day after America’s entry into the war, the 19th Armored Infantry battalion and the 25th Tank Battalion liberated Gambsheim.   Zetterower’s company was ordered to move from west to east along the south side of the Weyersheim - Gambsheim Road with E Company of the 232nd Infantry in the attack echelon.  The two companies were a part of Task Force A commanded by Ellis. They were to attack Gambsheim from the west, while Task Force B would attack from the south. The two forces began their attack two to three hundred yards west of Weyersheim with Co. E (232d) moving on the right flank south of the Weyersheim - Gambsheim Road. Zetterower’s company  was still on the way from Strasbourg.  As darkness began to fall, three supporting tanks took the point. Ellis’s force encountered little resistance, only light arms from German patrols slowed the advance. Once E Co. (232d) reached the edge of town and the cover of the Steinwald woods the fire intensified.

The leading elements of Ellis’ force found that a German force had moved into the Steinwald woods, north of town.  The briefing the men received earlier stated that there was no information  whether there were men in the woods or not.   Other German outposts were established along the Landgraben Canal west of the woods. When contacts with other elements of the Task Force were lost, Ellis called a halt to the advance and returned back to the Landgraben Canal.  The men dug in while the leaders continued to attempt to contact the 2nd Battalion of the 242nd Regiment, which had been delayed in coming up because of heavy enemy fire.  At six o’clock in the evening, the two Task Force leaders, were discussing their next move from a command post in Weyersheim.  

Company E arrived in Weyersheim about 4:30 p.m.  They were told little, just that a small force of Germans were defending the town of Gambsheim.  E Company (222nd) was told that the attack was in progress and that they would be the reserve company in the attack, 600 yards behind E Company (232nd).   As the Company Commander was returning to town, the company had already dismounted from their vehicles and were moving forward through Weyersheim.  During their advance through the town, the commander ordered a test of the radios.  Only two of the six radios had been calibrated. Two quit working after ten minutes.  In the haste to move out quickly, the bazookas and bazooka ammunition was left behind in the supply truck.
Upon their arrival at the canal, Company E (222nd) was ordered to assemble in a field. “There were many junior officers, non-coms, and platoon runners there,” Clayton remembered.  The men removed all but their most essential gear.  Each man placed two hand grenades on his field jacket flaps.  They loaded as much ammo as each man could carry.  A first aid kit and a canteen was the only other equipment that most of the men would carry with them - a thought which befuddled Clayton who was told to expect tanks along the way.  The Company Commander went to look for the battalion commander and placed a platoon leader in command of the company.   The captain ran into the tank commander, who had not seen anything of E Company (232nd).   When he returned to his company, the captain found that E Company (222nd) was about 400 yards west of Gambsheim, out in front of E
Company (232nd).  The captain ordered an immediate withdrawal back to the canal.

The Battalion Commander ordered Zetterower’s company to form a defensive perimeter west of the canal in the rear of E Company (232nd).   “ The ground was bitterly cold, the ground was covered with snow, and we huddled together all night long trying to keep warm and prevent frostbite, ” remembered Sgt. Gareth Tuckey. Many of the men slept (or tried to sleep) out in the open with little to warm them. After a reconnaissance patrol returned to camp, the Battalion Commander ordered Zetterower’s Company to be the attacking company, when the force crossed the bridge on the next morning.  The vehicle bridge was the only place where the canal could be forded.  The companies were ordered to get into files and to follow the 242nd over the bridge.

At 3:00 o’clock on the morning of January 6, 1945, the Ellis force departed from the departure point, the Landgraben Canal vehicle  bridge.  Their mission was to reach the railroad station before eight o’clock.  This time line was critical because the ground between the bridge and the railroad was flat and open.  After reaching the railroad, the Ellis Force was ordered to push the German’s across the Rhine River.  This was no easy task for two companies which had virtually no armored support.

In an interview following the battle, Colonel Ellis stated, “The attack went off as planned.  The tanks moved out with the Ellis force.  The terrain which the 2nd Battalion, 242nd Infantry, was advancing was not suitable for tanks.  The attack progressed in a satisfactory manner.” He further added that “basically the plan for the attack was sound, but that a three hour delay for further reconnaissance and
organization would have been of considerable benefit.”  Better communications, ammunition resupply,  and additional fire support would be needed for the attack to succeed.  There was no bazooka ammunition, although each unit carried an adequate supply of bazookas.  

The point of the 242nd was cut down by fire which enfiladed the column.  Two tanks were brought up to lead the advance.  The forces then moved out across the bridge and took up night attack formations.  Bill Clayton remembered that “you could only see a few feet and conversation was limited to a few whispers.”  The attack pattern was two or three men on the point, followed by the company commander, who was followed by three platoon runners, and three rifle platoons.

Heavy machine gun fire began to rain down on the Ellis Force after they crossed the first canal. Three 60mm mortars silenced the machine guns.   Clayton remembered that the German machine guns opened up from several directions. Sweeping tracers were flying all over the place.  Clayton thought about lying down in the snow.  He heard S/Sgt. Boyd Turner cry out that he had been hit. Clayton crawled to Turner and brought him back to safety behind a pile of rocks or a stone wall.  It was hard to tell in the dark of night.  Company E, with Sgt. Zetterower heading one of the leading elements, began to race across the open ground, firing as they ran.  The dark night allowed Ellis’s men to move faster.  The Weyersheim-Gambsheim Road, which divided the two forces, aided in directing the attack toward Gambsheim.  The flashes from German guns in the Steinwald Woods to the northeast kept the men moving in the right direction.  The skirmishers of the  242nd slowed the enemy fire from the Steinwald Woods.

As Lt. George Carroll of Company E looked around as the nautical twilight began, he noticed that the tanks which had been promised to him were not there. He ran back in the dark to find them, but to no avail.  E Company was pinned down in the snow.  They were easy targets.  Men were being wounded and killed, left and right, in the crossing machine gun fire.  Charles Livingston, a platoon leader, looked around and saw no one was firing.  Company F was supposed to be coming up on the
right flank.  They were not there - ambushed and pinned down by the Germans several miles away.   The men of Company E  were hugging the snow laden ground. Still, there were no tanks.  Five runners were sent back to find them.  All five were wounded.  Frederick L. Vonglarick, Kenneth Dickey, and Harry D. Pratt were all awarded Bronze Stars for their heroic achievement in volunteering to run back through the fire to find the badly needed tanks.  All three were wounded and were presumed missing in action.   As Carroll approached riding on one of the American tanks, Livingston ordered his men to charge toward the railroad embankment. The tanks stopped and began firing.  One round accidentally killed two men and wounded a platoon leader.  The Company Commander attempted to force the tank to unbutton its turrets by beating on the turret with rifles. 

After this didn’t work, he managed to get in front of the tank’s periscope and waved his arms.  By 8:00 a.m., the tanks were no longer to be found.  The tank platoon leader was killed when a bazooka round destroyed his tank.

The men charged toward the railroad tracks.  They had only crossed half way across that open, and very deadly, field.  There was no alternative.  One officer ordered his men to fire rifle grenades into the railroad station.   There were rebel yells and shouts of “hubba hubba” as the men rushed the German positions.  By this time, most of the men must have felt they were about to die.  The embankment of the tracks was the only cover from the horrific fire they could find.   The tracks, which were elevated twenty feet high at a 100% slope, provided excellent cover.  The rifle grenades seemed to slow the enemy fire coming from the station.   Livingston said, “the last time I saw Frank, we were pinned down in the snow along the railroad tracks.”  

It is impossible, after 55 years, to determine the exact order of events as the battle as they took place. The men’s memories are clouded by the maelstrom of the moment.    Frank took his 2nd Platoon rifle squad toward an open school yard.   “He was with the leading elements of the company,” said Sgt. Gareth Tuckey,  who lead a weapon’s platoon in Zetterower’s rear.     Suddenly one of Frank’s men was wounded, lying helplessly  in the open.  The sun was quickly illuminating Zetterower and his men, who were silhouetted against the white snow.   Frank had to do something.  His man had no chance out there.  Someone had to go get him.  He knew the odds weren’t good.  That man would die unless he went to out to get him.  The sergeant made sure his men were covered from enemy fire before he made his move. He made it to the man and began to drag him back to safety.

Small arms fire and the always deadly automatic weapons fire permeated the school yard.  The shots were coming from the direction of the Gambsheim railroad station.  Charles Ross, who was standing near Sgt. Zetterower, said  “ he just dropped down and his helmet went flying back off his head.” Ross called out to Frank, but Frank never moved or answered.  When Lt. Carroll ordered the men the charge, Walter Stomski stood up.  He looked up and down the lines.  “I was horrified to see how many of us did not get up,” Stomski lamented.  Stomski called for his squad leaders looking for orders. “When I called for S. Sgt. Zetterower’s name, he did not respond,” Stomski still vividly remembered.  “At this point, I knew he didn’t make it, but it was not confirmed until the next day when the medic reported the casualties to me,” Stomski said.

The men were ordered to keep going.  Ross hoped Frank was just wounded. Weapons platoon leader William C. Bahan and Sgt. Gareth Tuckey followed Frank’s squad into Gambsheim.  When they got to where Frank was, they found that someone had marked his location by sticking his rifle into the ground and placing his helmet on the ground.  There was nothing they could do for him now.    They said to themselves that at least he did not have to suffer very long in the extremely cold weather. Rear elements of the unit came up and brought Frank’s body back to the back of the lines.  Sgt. Zetterower was the company’s first casualty of the war-  in its first battle.

Rifle grenades drove the German defenders from the railroad station area. Fortunately there were no German troops in the railroad station, which Livingston set up as a command post.  Company E of the 232nd Infantry, the reserve company, came up and the survivors established a shaky foothold on the western edge of town.  E Company (232nd) had lost all but one of its officers in the first hour. Then, inch by inch and foot by foot, the Americans moved house to house, eventually making it to the eastern edge of Gambsheim.  The Gambsheim Church was shelled in order to prevent sniper fire. The plan was then to take the southern half of the town.  E Company (232nd) took over the attack echelon.  E Company (222nd) had used most of its ammunition.  The 2nd Platoon was used to establish a bridgehead.  The 1st and 3rd Platoons moved out toward Gambsheim Church, which they took fairly easily through the use of rifle grenades.   The 242nd, now north of the town, had no support.  Col. Ellis reported that there was little fire in the town itself, although there was some enemy artillery shells fired, but were being shot over the heads of his men. Had Ellis known of the predicament of the 242nd, he would have turned north, instead of south.

The Americans had been told that the town was occupied by a few war weary German infantrymen.  Instead, they ran into a company of German Panzer tanks. With no bazookas, the infantrymen of Task Force Linden were helpless.    Then men originally thought they were American tanks coming down the Rhine River from the flank.  The men noticed that behind the tanks were German infantrymen, many of whom were killed by American machine gun fire.  

Sgt. Frank Diaz, Jr. was wounded in his back by mortar shell fragments.  Diaz continued to assist the squad leader until he was also wounded.  Sgt. Diaz took command of the squad and helped move the wounded into a railroad station.   Diaz remained with the wounded and took them down into the basement and then directed the remaining men out of the station and back to safety.  For his actions of heroism, Sgt. Diaz was awarded the Silver Star.   Ross was wounded in the leg and taken to an aid station, which had been set up in that  house.    Someone came in and told him and four other wounded men that the companies were pulling out and they had to stay behind. The five wounded men hid in the basement of the house for five days until they were captured and taken to a German P.O.W. Camp for the remainder of the war.  They never knew what happened to their friends and fellow members of the company.

Bill Clayton remembered coming to after being hit by something.  He was directed to a pub where medics were treating the wounded.  The lesser wounded men started passing a bottle of Cognac around to help alleviate their painful wounds. Then someone yelled, “here comes a tank!”  The tank fired a shot directly into the building.  Those who could run,  ran out. Clayton attached himself to a Lt. Colonel, whom he figured knew what was going on.  The colonel was trying to organize a delaying action to stop the tank.  Clayton made it back but, it wasn’t easy.

Sgt. Tuckey’s weapon’s squad made it to the station “where it seemed obvious to me that we were hopelessly out-gunned and out-manned, Sgt. Tuckey wrote.  “A couple of senior officers sent three volunteers to try and locate the armor support. They were wounded or captured almost immediately,” said Tuckey, who then was forced to withdraw with the rest of his squad.  “I lost five men from my platoon, including a college classmate, who was my best friend,” Tuckey lamented.

There was still no communication with the 242nd on the north, or more importantly, the 232nd on the south.  Ellis’s men thought they could hold against the infantry, but not against the powerful Panzers.  Ellis ordered a withdrawal.  The Germans failed to pursue them.  Ellis commented that the German infantry was “rather inferior.”    The two companies of Ellis’s force joined west of town, but when heavy mortar fire began coming into their positions, Ellis ordered a further withdrawal.

The survivors made it back to the Rohr River to the west.  Livingston and some of the men escaped under the cover of a frozen irrigation ditch.  In all of the confusion and pure Hell, Livingston was unaware of Zetterower’s condition. Livingston, who was awarded a Silver Star for his heroism during the battle, was shocked and grieved, nearly fifty five years after the incident, when he first learned of Frank’s wounding.  He was “a truly likeable guy,” Livingston said.  “Frank amused me with his ‘Yankee Californian’ pronunciation of his name, which sounded like ‘Zettawowah,” Livingston fondly remembered.

The American forces had been  forced to into a hasty withdrawal, having to leave many of the wounded behind, including the platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Dallas Hartwell, the third platoon leader,  and Sgt. Zetterower.  It was their first “baptism of fire.”  The two task forces dug in and waited for eight cold days before being sent back to Luneville, France to recuperate and accept replacements.  The men recovered, new replacements came in, and the advance toward Germany continued. Company E saw action three weeks later at the Ohlungen and Hagenau Forests.   In the last weeks of the war, the men of the 42nd Division moved in the concentration camp at Dachau.   Not knowing  whether or not they were going to fired upon they moved into an area which Bill Clayton described as “deadly quiet.” The prisoners were huddled in their cages. No words were uttered.  Those men of the 42nd, who were the first to enter the camp, were profoundly affected by what they saw for the rest of their lives. The war ended when the 42nd Division was near the Bavarian Alps, which was some of the most beautiful country in the world, a substantial contrast to the hundreds of mile of Hell that had traveled in the last five months. 

Going into the battle, Bill Clayton estimated there were 175 men in Company E.  After the battle the company’s strength was down to 65, including the walking wounded.   Among those who gave their lives were Pfc Dominic R. Deluca, Pvt. Jack E. Hodge, Pfc John T. Ratchek, Pfc Robert W. Swanson, and S/Sgt Frank R. Zetterower.    2nd Lt. John T. Smithson was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroic
action, when his company was pinned down by heavy machine gun fire, mortar fire, and small arms fire.  Lt. Smithson rallied his platoon and laid down a covering fire which permitted the advance to be continued.  When many of his men began to fall, he succeeded in having two of the more seriously wounded men moved safely to the rear.  Lt. Smithson was reported missing in action following the battle.  Pfc John Masonis was also awarded the Bronze Star for heroism when he came out from the
protection of a wall and fired his Browning automatic rifle to allow several exposed men to crawl to the safety of the wall.  Masonis disregarded his wounds and once again moved out into the open to give aid to his wounded platoon leader.

          “On January 6, 1945 at Gambsheim, France, Company E, 222nd Regiment received its baptism by fire.  Without artillery or armor support, and without proper weapons to destroy enemy armor, we attacked the enemy.  We got our asses kicked, losing over half the company.  It was a strange tactic to say the least.”
          Bill Clayton, Co. E, 222nd Infantry

     In the fall of 1945, the United States Government recognized the heroic achievements of Staff Sergeant Frank R. Zetterower, Jr.  Major Gen. E.F. Witsell posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for heroism, to Frank’s widow, Nona, in recognition of “ His skillful leadership and self-sacrifice in taking care of his men and for gallantry in action.  Frank’s body arrived in Atlantaon July 21, 1948, just over three and one half years following his death.  On that very day and after a long illness, his father, Dr. Frank R. Zetterower, Sr., died.  Both were buried in Northview Cemetery in a double funeral (Sect. M, Row 1).
      Ten days after the death of Sgt. Frank Zetterower, another young Dublin sergeant  was a mile or so west of Gambsheim.  He was a part of the 66th Armored Infantry Battalion.  His unit was involved in an offensive to counter the German army which had stood firm in the area.  The young man was a member of Company A which moved across the canal about a mile below where Zetterower’s company had crossed ten days earlier.  This time the attack was directed between the canal and the Steinwald woods.   Their mission was to clear the woods of the German forces.  There was a little snow on the ground, but the fog was so thick that the men could not see more than twenty feet in any direction.  As the men of Company A approached the northern half of the woods, they came under fire.  The young Dublin sergeant fell. At first his family thought his wound was very serious.  He was lucky, unlike his former neighbor, Sgt. Zetterower.  The man returned to his unit and in April of 1945,  led the first allied force across the Danube River in Germany.  The younger neighbor of Sgt. Zetterower, who lived about three blocks from the Zetterower home was Sgt.   Lester Porter.
      Frank Zetterower was remembered fondly by all of those who still survive   him.  Sgt. Tuckey described Zetterower as “a competent, well-liked, and highly respected NCO, who became a member of the training cadre when the 42nd Division when it was activated.”  Charles Livingston hoped that his family would be consoled  by the fact that “he was a very brave and selfless man.”   Perhaps Sgt. George  Beard put it best. “Frank was well respected by his squad members, his fellow noncoms,  and our Company Captain Bungo.  I am sure our Maker is now using his talents, and Frank has already informed Him that if there is a roll call, please start with the letter  ‘Z.”
               “Being from New York, The Bronx, I liked
               to hear Sgt. Zetterower talk with a
               Southern accent.  He was always fair and
               not a sergeant that screamed orders, but
               accomplished things by a firm voice in a
               gentlemanly manner and the men obeyed
               him on account of his toned down method
               of giving orders.”
                Oswald T. Cutilli
                Co. E, 222nd Inf.
          Letters from members of the 222nd Infantry Regiment,(Zetterower File, Dublin-
          Laurens Museum.)
     The Badge, Rainbow Division Veteran’s Association, November, 1998.
          Winter Storm, by Lise M. Pommois, Rainbow Veteran’s Association, Turner
          Publishing Company, 3rd Edition, 1998.
          The Final Crisis, Combat in Northern Alsace, by Richard Engler, Aegis Consulting
          Group, Hampton, Va., 1999 .
     Dublin Courier Herald, May 9, 1945, Oct. 4, 1945.
     42nd Rainbow Infantry Division, History World War II,   Lt. Hugh C. Daly, 1946.
          42nd Rainbow Infantry Division, National Association of Rainbow Veterans, Turner
          Publishing Company, Paducah, KY, 1987.
     Rainbow Division Website
     Reveille Magazine, April 1998, June, 1998.
          Interview with Col. Edmund Ellis in reference to the Weyersheim-Gambsheim
          Action, 5-8 January, 1945, by William Goddard, 7th Army Historian, U.S.
          Army Military History Institute.
     Furnace and the Fire, Vienna, Austria, 1945.
     42nd Division Battle Deaths, Rainbow Division Memorial Foundation, St. Louis, MO,
     Personal Interview with Dr. John W. Zetterower.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


    April of 1865 saw the end of the bloodiest and most divisive four years in American History.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet fled Richmond one week before General Lee's surrender at Appomattox.   Davis's plan called for an escape to Texas where the remaining Confederate forces would combine to fight a guerilla type war against the North.   This week marks the 150th anniversary of the day the President came to town.

   Jefferson Davis arrived on May 4th in Washington, Ga. where the Confederate Cabinet held its last session.  Davis and his family headed in two different directions.  The main party paused at Warthen and went south to Sandersville around noon on the 6th of May. Acting Confederate Treasury Secretary John Reagan transacted the last business of the Confederacy in Sandersville.  Davis moved on toward the Oconee River in the area east of Ball's Ferry, with the intentions of camping there for the night.  Shortly after their arrival at Ball's Ferry on the Irwinton to Wrightsville Road, President Davis, whom it has been said were planning a westward course,  and his escorts learned of a plan to attack the wagon train of Mrs. Davis which was pressing southward on a converging path.

   Fearing for his family's safety, Davis pressed south along the river road.  Whenever possible they had to travel off the edge of the road in order to hide their trail and prevent visual observation.  After several hours of difficult travel through thick pine woods Davis and his party arrived just before dawn in the Mt. Pleasant and Frog Level communities,near the Laurens County home of E.J. Blackshear.  As the two parties came together, each, at first thought the other was the enemy.  Davis’s pickets discovered that it was Mrs. Davis, the children, and the rest of the party who arrived at the Blackshear home earlier that evening.   After a short reunion, the Davis family had breakfast and then made their plans to resume their journey.  By then,  they knew that Union forces would not be far behind.

     The Union Army had already begun to search for Jefferson Davis.  The best cavalry regiment was selected to proceed east toward Dublin where they would cross the Oconee River and hopefully pick up the trail of Davis's wagon train.  Davis's train of light wagons and ambulances crossed at the Dublin ferry early on the morning of the seventh of May.  From there they proceeded into the center of town.  As was the case of his previous traveling habits, Jefferson Davis traveled separately from the train.  He crossed below  the Dublin Ferry mounted on a fine bay horse.  Davis then proceeded to the southeastern edge of town. 

     Davis never came into town but remained in the area now bounded on the north by Madison Street, east by Decatur Street, south by the railroad, and west by South Franklin Street. 

     The wagon train pulled into Dublin late Sunday morning.  In those days,  Dublin was a small village which had practically died out during the war.  A Confederate officer dismounted and approached the store of Freeman H. Rowe.  Freeman Rowe, a native of Connecticut, operated his mercantile store on the southwest corner of the courthouse square in the spot where the Hicks Building now stands.  Rowe, who had been in Dublin nearly twenty years, advised the officer of the terrain and roads in the county.  He advised the party to proceed south down the Jacksonville Road, which is today known as the Glenwood Road.  While the party was stopped, the Davis's carriage driver, John Davis, noticed a young black girl, Della Conway, approaching him.  After the eventual capture of Jefferson Davis, John Davis would return to Laurens County where he would find and marry Della Conway.  They would live  in Laurens County for forty years before moving to Dodge County where they lived the rest of their lives.  Mr. Rowe extended an invitation to Davis to dine at his house at the southwest corner of Rowe Street and Academy Avenue. Owing to the necessity of pressing on, the officer graciously declined the invitation,  but he did accept freshly cooked food from the Rowe kitchen.  

A detail was sent down to the President to advise him of the direction of travel.  They joined Davis a few miles south of town and proceeded down toward Turkey Creek.  The wagon train first started down the Jacksonville Road (Georgia Highway 19) but shortly moved over to the Telfair Road (U.S. Highway 441). 

 According to the maps of the Union Army Corps of Engineers,  the main road south would have been the Telfair Road (U.S.Highway 441) down to Turkey Creek, after crossing the creek, Davis and his party turned more to the southwest near or along the present day Payne Road and the City of Rentz. Following Snow Hill Church Road and the Old Eastman Road south from the Cadwell area, Davis and his band camped in the forks of Alligator Creek, most likely on the high ground  just below the Laurens-Dodge County line. 

Through the eastern portion of then Pulaski County, Davis continued on along the present day Airport Road.  After crossing the current Highway 46, Davis maintained his southwesterly course until he ran headlong into a overflowing Gum Swamp Creek, a major tributary of the Little Ocmulgee River.  The President’s forward observers found a place to attempt a crossing in the swollen waters of a wide and treacherous swamp.   

After a long day of arduous travel of less than 15 miles, the Confederates came to rest on the western side of the creek, west of Parkerson Church.  The spot was marked in the 1920s by Davis’s carriage John Davis, who returned to the area to mark the exact spot of the camp site, located on the southeast corner of Jefferson Davis Memorial Road and Parkerson Church Road.

From that point, Davis and his band left early on the morning of the 9th along or near Friiendship Baptist Church Road toward the Five Points community arrived at noon at the Levi Harrell farm.  During the rest of the day, the caravan moved south to Rhine, where they turned west  toward Abbeville. 

     As Jefferson Davis was leaving the campsite at the Blackshear Plantation, Col. Harnden and the Wisconsin Cavalry were preparing to leave their campsite near Marion in Twiggs County.  The cavalry pushed down the Old Macon Road until they came to it’s intersection with the Hawkinsville Road.  The crossroads was then and is now known as Thomas Cross Roads.  The Hawkinsville Road, also known as the Blackshear Trail or Blackshear's Ferry Road, followed an old Uchee Indian trail from Augusta to southern Alabama.  As the Federals were approaching the crossroads, they learned that a contingent of several hundred paroled Confederate cavalry soldiers from General Johnston's army had just passed through there on their way home. This information seemed to be a little alarming to Col. Harnden because the men were mounted and as a precautionary measure he sent Lieutenant Orson P. Clinton and twenty men southwest to Laurens Hill on the Hawkinsville Road to reconnoiter that area.  During the war,  Laurens Hill had been the location of a Confederate commissary of arms and supplies.   As the cavalry approached Laurens County, they ran into small groups of Confederates. 

Harnden proceeded to the ferry where he arrived at 5:00 o'clock in the evening of May 7th.  It was just a few miles north of the ferry where Davis had camped the night before.

         Just as Davis was passing through Laurens County, so were John C. Breckinridge, a Confederate field offficer and the former Vice President of the United States under James Buchanan. Breckinridge hid out on the east side of the river, opposite Dublin and made his way down to Jacksonville, Georgia, the county seat of Telfair County.  The lackluster general, managed to escape to Florida, Cuba, Great Britain and Canada. 

    Following on a more westerly course was Judah P.  Benjamin. Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of State and a United States Senator from Louisiana,  left Davis and his party and too moving quietly and almost alone.  Benjamin managed to escape to Florida within a week or so, escaping to Europe and safety.

Freeman H. Rowe

Upon arriving in Dublin, Harnden noticed that the people were considerably excited at their presence.  In an effort to disguise their true reason for being in Dublin, Harnden instructed his men to tell the townspeople that they were establishing courier posts between Macon and Savannah.  The First Wisconsin bivouacked on the flat area between the town and the river, probably along the main road down to the ferry.  Today that road would have been Jackson Street down to Dudley’s Motel and from that point running behind the motel to East Gaines Street to the Dublin ferry, which was located at the mouth of Town Creek just above the Riverwalk Amphitheater.  Colonel Harnden was approached by several of the town’s gentlemen, who insisted that he spend the night in their homes. Colonel Harnden, suspicious and not used to such attention, kindly declined their invitations and remained with his men.

The gentlemen’s insistent requests aroused Harnden’s suspicions that something big was going on.  Questions brought about evasive answers.  Harnden, still oblivious to the fact that he had missed Davis by slightly more than a half day, concluded that it must have been some more important members of Johnston’s army.  Dublin was filled with Confederate officers, all still in uniform, though the war had been effectively over for four weeks.  The officers stood in small groups, eyeing every movement of Harnden’s men with foreboding glances.  Uneasy and dead tired from riding twenty four out of the last thirty six hours, Harnden and his men bedded down for the night.

As Harnden was on the verge of collapsing into sleep, his servant, Bill,  came into his tent to awaken the Colonel with some important news.  Bill, who had been a slave belonging to a staff officer under the command of Confederate general Braxton Bragg and who had waited on General Bragg personally, was left behind when Bragg’s forces were dislodged from Tennessee in 1863. Harnden described Bill as “homely as a hedge hog, but a perfect tyrant over the other darkies.” Harnden trusted Bill, whom he also described as “being true as steel and very intelligent.”  Bill told Colonel Harnden that he found a colored man who wanted to tell him something.  “What is it?” the Colonel asked as he strained to see the man in the pitch black dark night.  Harnden managed to see some of his eyes and knew that he had important information.  The man told Harnden that Jefferson Davis had been in town that day.  Harnden asked the man how he knew it was Jeff Davis.  “Well,” he said, “all the gentlemen called him ‘President Davis’ and he had his wife with him and she was called, ‘Mrs. Davis’.”  (Above) The man told Harnden that Davis had come over the river on a ferry on a nice number of wagons and fine horses.   He added that another large party came into town but did not cross the river.  This group may have been the party of Gen. J.C. Breckenridge, a Confederate General and former Vice President of the United States, who was hiding out in East Dublin.  Gen. Breckinridge barely escaped capture in Laurens Co. and hid out in Telfair Co. for a few days. He later escaped to England.  

Harnden’s suspicions about the gentlemen in Dublin were confirmed when Judge Freeman Rowe, (Rowe House left) who had offered the hospitality of his home to him, had offered the same hospitality to Davis earlier that morning.    Harnden was fearful that the Negro man’s testimony was a ruse to get him to follow the wrong trail, much the same as Judge Rowe had attempted to do.  Harnden trusted Bill’s opinion on the veracity of the informant’s statement.  Bill told the Colonel, “Certain, sure, Colonel, you can believe him, he’s telling God’s truth.”  

To verify the man’s statement, Harnden sent a couple of men down to the ferry to query the ferryman as to who was brought across the river.  “He was either too stupid, ignorant, or obstinate to give us any information of importance,” lamented Harnden, who regretted not complying with the wishes of his sergeant who wanted to “throw the old scamp into the river.”  Harnden returned to his bivouac and summoned Lt. Hewitt, who had been sent to Laurens Hill with thirty men to reconnoiter the area which had once housed a Confederate commissary. 

   Harnden ordered Lt. Lane to remain in Dublin with forty-five men.  Lane’s mission was to scout up and down both sides of the river in hopes of gaining further information as to Davis’s route. Harnden set out with seventy-five men following the trail which had been given to him.  There were no good roads, only trails.  It was dark, very dark.  The cavalrymen were going in circles and during the night, they wound back up in Dublin. 

Despite the misdirection from F.H. Rowe, they proceeded down the Jacksonville Road.  At Turkey Creek, a woman confirmed that a wagon train had passed the afternoon before.  From this point the cavalry entered the unpopulated pine regions of southern Laurens County. They saw few people and quickly lost track of the wagons due to the rain.  While the calvary were attempting to find the trail, a man approached on horseback. Denying that he knew anything,  the man confessed upon threats by the cavalry. He disclosed that the wagon train stopped for the night about eleven miles away.  He guided the cavalry to that spot in the forks of Alligator Creek.  Col. Harden picked up the trail, followed it for a short time and eventually lost it again.  Shortly thereafter the cavalry came upon another guide who,  upon payment for his knowledge,  guided the cavalry to the southern side of the forks of Alligator Creek,  where the trail was again revealed.  After they crossed Gum Swamp Creek, the cavalry stopped for the night as nightfall approached. 
Davis left the rest of the party moving southwesterly toward Abbeville on the morning of the 8th.  The torrential rains continued to cripple his escape, but allowed Davis to delay his capture by a day because even the faster cavalry units could not follow washed out trails.  Davis reached the banks of the Ocmulgee in the late evening.  After he  crossed the river, Davis made his camp in a deserted house on the outskirts of Abbeville.  Most of the townspeople knew nothing of his presence due to the heavy rainfall.   The rest of the wagon train crossed the ferry just after midnight.  About 3:00 o'clock on the morning of the ninth a courier was sent by President Davis warning the wagon train of the presence of Union Cavalry in Hawkinsville - only a few miles to the northwest.   

On the last full day of freedom and with only a few moments of sleep the members of the Confederate wagon train pulled out of camp from Abbeville early in the morning of the 9th.  They stopped to rest and a cook a sunrise breakfast about eight to ten miles below Abbeville.  The relentless rains continued to plague the flight of the Confederates.  Davis caught up with the rest of the party in the late afternoon.  With the men and horses completely exhausted, the party crossed a small creek north of Irwinville to camp for the night. 

    It became increasingly apparent that in order to escape to the Trans Mississippi area that President Davis and his party should go ahead before camping for the night.  Davis promised that he would move ahead after a quick meal.  With the last reports of the Union Army in Hawkinsville and no sign of any pursuit, Davis decided to stay with the party for one more night.  

   Just before light on the morning of the ninth, Col. Harnden broke camp and moved toward the Ocmulgee.  He then quickly moved down the river road to Abbeville.  There they were overtaken by the advance scouts of the 4th Mich. Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Ben Pritchard.  Col. Harnden sent Lt. Clinton to the point while he returned to Abbeville.  They continued on the Irwinville Road until nine o'clock that evening.  After traveling forty five miles and not wanting to warn Davis of his presence with a noisy river crossing, the Wisconsin Cavalry halted for the night in a field on the north side a small creek a little over a mile from the Confederates.  The Mich. Cavalry moved north from Irwinville.  Three hours before dawn the Wisconsin and Michigan cavalry soldiers were poised to surround the camp.  Neither regiment knew of the other's presence.  Shots rang out!  The Union Soldiers were firing at each other.  Two men were killed.

     While the two Union regiments were violently bringing the search for Davis to an end, the actual capture of Jefferson Davis was peaceful.  At the instant the firing on the north side of the creek began,  the Michigan Cavalry charged through the Davis's campsite. Davis gave himself up when he felt his wife was being threatened. The Confederates were arrested and taken to Macon.  From Macon, Jefferson Davis was sent to Fortress Monroe Prison in Virginia. 

     While the southern half of Middle Georgia escaped the ravages of battle, it was the site of the last major event of Civil War.  The most critical event in the capture occurred in Dublin, where the Wisconsin Cavalry first learned of Davis's route.  If Col. Harnden had been here a day earlier, then the capture would have been made in Laurens County.  If he been delayed by a couple of days, the capture may have never occurred. 

Ironically, Henry Harnden was a southerner by birth.  The Harndens, a well respected family of Wilmington, North Carolina, served in the forefront of the defense of the port city during the American Revolution.  Born in Wilmington in 1823, Harden moved to Wisconsin in early adulthood.  He enlisted as a private in Company D of the First Wisconsin.  For his acts of valor and meritorious service, Harnden quickly promoted up the chain of  command.  Harnden led a charge against a superior force at Scatterville in 1862, capturing a large number of Confederate prisoners and munitions.   He was severely wounded while leading an attack at Burnt Hickory.  In March of 1865, Harnden was temporarily breveted a Brigadier General in the Union Army.  After the end of his military career, Col. Harnden served in the Wisconsin state assembly.  He served as a trustee of the Soldier’s Orphan Home, a United States Assessor, and a Collector of Internal Revenue.  Harnden spent the last year of his life as Commander of the Wisconsin Department of the Grand Army of the Republic.  He died in 1900 and was buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison.

As Davis and his party attempted to elude capture by Federal authorities along their secretive and meandering path through the countryside of the Carolinas and Georgia, Davis rode with John Taylor Wood, John H. Reagan, Francis Lubbock and William Preston Johnston,  four remarkable members  of President Davis’s senior staff.   This  quartet of Davis’s most trusted and experienced aides provided invaluable services to the President, his family, and members of his staff.   With his primary destination being Texas, Davis assembled a group, which included three Texans and one naval officer, just in case the alternate plan of fleeing by ship to England was necessary.   When Davis was informed of a possible attack on his family in the main wagon train, Colonels Wood, Lubbock and Johnston aided Davis in his frantic and eventually successful search for his family, which culminated at the home of E.J. Blackshear at the intersection of the current day Ben Hall Lake Road and Willie Wood Road.   Secretary Reagan remained with Mrs. Davis and her children during the ordeal and acted as the leader of the wagon train when the group approached the Dublin store of Freeman H. Rowe in the mid morning of May 7th seeking directions as to the best and most direct route to the southwest.  

John Taylor Wood graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1853.  Wood, a son of an Army surgeon, served in the Mexican War and in the Mediterranean Sea.  In April 1861, the native of Minnesota, resigned his commission in the Federal navy to assume a neutral stance in the burgeoning conflict.  Six months later, Wood received a commission as a First Lieutenant in the Confederate Navy.    Lieutenant Wood was assigned to duty along the eastern shore of Virginia.   He served aboard the ironclad C.S.S. Virginia, aka C.S.S. Merrimac, which was destroyed in its legendary encounter with the U.S.S. Monitor.  During the next two years, Wood led a series of successful raids against Union ships along the Virginia coastline.  For his valuable service to Confederate President Davis, Lt. Wood was promoted to Commander.  At the same time, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel in the Confederate Calvary, a unique distinction in any military force.   

Known for his daring military exploits, Wood played a vital role as a liaison between the two branches of the Confederate military and the civilian government.  In the last summer of the war, Commander Wood took command of the CSS Tallahassee and made effective attacks on Federal ships along the Atlantic coast.  Near the end of the war, Wood was promoted to the rank of Captain.  As the government of the Confederacy began to crumble in the last weeks of the war, Captain Wood was summoned to Richmond to aid Davis and his cabinet in their attempted escape from Federal authorities.  While most members of Davis’s cabinet left Davis during his flight, Wood remained with Davis all the way to Irwinville, where he was captured.  Wood managed to escape a long prison sentence and made his way to Cuba and then to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he became a businessman.  Wood died at the age of seventy-four in 1904. 

John H. Reagan floundered around during his youth before he set out for Texas to seek his fortune.  Reagan served as a soldier, surveyor and scout before he became an attorney. Reagan rose in the political ranks first as a county judge, a member of the 2nd Texas Legislature and finally as a United States Congressman in 1857. Upon the secession of the Confederate States in January 1861, Cong. Reagan resigned his seat in Congress and returned to Texas.  Reagan represented Texas in the Secession Convention in Montgomery.  He was appointed by the Confederate government as Postmaster General of the Confederacy.  His tight management of the Postal Service led to criticism by the Southern people.  After the resignation of George A. Trenholm, Reagan briefly assumed the duty of Treasury Secretary of the Confederacy until he was captured along with Davis near Irwinville.  

Reagan was confined to solitary confinement along with Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens for twenty-two weeks at Fort Warren.    After urging his fellow Texans to cooperate with the Federal occupation of their state, he returned in political disgrace.   The opinions of is fellow politicians and constituents reversed and Reagan was returned to the favor of the Democratic party.   He was easily elected to Congress in 1874 and remained in office until 1887.  Cong. Reagan served a brief stint as a United States Senator before resigning to become the first Railroad Commissioner of Texas.  Commissioner Reagan served as Commissioner of Railroads until 1903.  At the age of eighty-six, Reagan, “The Old Roman of Texas,” died in Palestine, Texas in January 1905.  
Francis Lubbock, a native of Beaufort, South Carolina, migrated to Texas in 1836. Lubbock was first appointed Clerk of the House of Representatives and later  as Comptroller of the Republic of Texas by President Sam Houston.   Lubbock resigned his position to serve a sixteen-year term as the district clerk of Harris County, Texas.   In 1857, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of the “Lone Star” state.  After the secession of the Southern states in 1861, Lubbock was elected Governor of Texas.   

 Gov. Lubbock opted not to seek a second term as governor and seek a post in the Confederate military instead.  After serving a brief term in Louisiana,    Lubbock was made a Colonel and given a position on the staff of President Davis.  The two developed a close personal relationship. Col. Lubbock  was with the President when he was captured in Irwinville.  After nearly eight months of solitary confinement in a Federal prison, Lubbock returned to Texas for a career in ranching and business.  He served as State Treasurer from 1878 to 1891.   Gov. Lubbock died in June 1905 at the age of eighty-nine.

William Preston Johnston, a native of Kentucky, was raised by his maternal grandfather General William Preston.  Johnston’s father General Albert Sidney Johnston, a former Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas and a military hero in his own right, was one of the most revered and admired generals in the Confederate Army until he was killed at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.  William Johnston graduated from Yale in 1852 and studied law at the University of Louisville at Louisville, Kentucky, where he took up the practice of law.    During the war, Johnston was given a position as an aide-de-camp to Jefferson Davis. Johnston was with the president until the final moment of his capture at Irwinville.

After the war, Johnston accepted a position chair of the history and English departments at Washington & Lee University by that’s school’s first president, Gen. Robert E.  Lee.  After ten years of teaching at the Virginia college, Johnston moved to Louisiana, where in 1880, he accepted the presidency of Louisiana State University.  In 1884, he became the first president of Tulane University.   During his teaching career, Johnston published several volumes of poetry, wrote numerous magazine articles and authored a biography of his father.  He died in 1899 and was buried in Lexington, Virginia. 

Decades after the capture, Col. Henry Harnden pointed to the moment that a Negro slave walked into his tent between the courthouse and ferry in Dublin and told the Wisconsin cavalryman of Jefferson Davis’ recent presence as the key to his capture.  Had that man not come forward, Harnden doubted if he would have ever captured the fleeing Confederate leader. 

Jefferson Davis Highway Marker
in front of Dublin's Southside Fire Station
Intersection of S. Jefferson Street and 
Saxon Street.